My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Good for what ails body and mind

Well, I’m back from my trip to the Alpena, Michigan area, where I spent five very relaxing and peaceful days and nights that were exactly what I needed. Yes, there were some disappointments, I didn’t photograph a single new species of bird, and there were some equipment related frustrations along with the bugs and two chilly nights to deal with. But when I think back on this last week, those things won’t be what I remember, my memories will be of being able to hike all the way to South Point in Negwegon State Park and enjoy the view while breathing in the fresh clean air coming off from Lake Huron, lightly scented with pine and cedar…

The view from South Point in Nowegon SP

The view from South Point in Negwegon SP

…and the glorious sunsets in the evenings.

And while I didn’t make any new bird friends during the week, there were plenty of old friends to photograph better than I have in the past.

Male yellow bellied sapsucker

Male yellow-bellied sapsucker

 

Male red headed woodpecker

Male red-headed woodpecker

And, I may not have gotten any new species of birds, I did photograph this little cutie for the first time ever!

Female Least weasel

Female Least weasel

It’s hard to believe that a critter that cute and beautiful is ounce for ounce, one of the most ferocious predators there is. Don’t worry, there will be better photos of her in a later post.

This past week was exactly what I needed to get both my body and my mental health back in shape. After the health problems that I had with my legs and feet, the five miles to South Point and back weren’t a problem at all, although I would have crawled if I had to in order to see the sights and just enjoy everything about being out in nature in an area where people are few and far between. I may have had better weeks out in the woods before, but never one that meant as much to me as this one did. I find it hard to put into words how true that is, so I suppose that my photos will have to say it for me.

I left home well before sunrise on Monday morning under a cloudy sky that was dropping rain occasionally throughout the first half of the day. As I neared my destination, I stopped off at the Sturgeon Point Lighthouse to stretch my legs and take a break from driving. I’ve photographed the lighthouse before, so I didn’t this time, besides, there was some one else there using a drone to photograph the light, so I didn’t want to spoil his photo shoot. But, I did find this…

Porcupine

Porcupine

…and this to shoot.

White-crowned sparrow

White-crowned sparrow

I arrived at Ossineke State Forest Campground before noon, and in less than half an hour, I had my tent/cot set-up, and I was ready to go looking for birds. However, my first photo from there wasn’t of a bird, it was of sap dripping from a freshly fallen pine that had fallen over the trail, and been sawed to clear the trail again.

Dripping pine sap

Dripping pine sap

Reaching the shore of Lake Huron, I noticed these two mergansers near the shore.

Male common merganser

Male common merganser

 

Female common merganser

Female common merganser

I also noticed even more changes in the shoreline due to the rising water level of Lake Huron, the sand bars that used to hold the shorebirds that I would have liked to have photographed were now under water. So was most of the point of land jutting out into the lake where I had photographed the shorebirds in previous years. More bad news was on the way as well, I didn’t notice a single eagle anywhere in sight, and it looked like the nest to the south of the campground hadn’t been used. Speaking to one of the local dog walkers later that day, he said that the eagles never showed up last year either.

That didn’t mean that I didn’t see any eagles that week, one even flew through my campsite early on Saturday morning while I was drinking coffee, but there was no longer a handy flock to shoot close to my campsite.

I don’t want to dwell on the negative, but I didn’t get the flocks of warblers through my campsite every morning as I had in the past either. That may have been a timing issue, since I was a week later this year, and we had a relatively mild winter, only time will tell. I did get a few warblers in camp, mostly yellow-romped and palm warblers, but those two species were everywhere!

There were also a few of these around, but I never got close to one.

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

Plenty of these…

Male yellow warbler

Male yellow warbler

…and these as well.

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

The photos of warblers from this week may not be the greatest, but I amazed myself by recalling what most of the species of warblers that I have seen in the past looked like and how they behaved, for instance, I knew right away that this was a pine warbler.

Pine warbler

Pine warbler

 

Pine warbler

Pine warbler

That’s even though I haven’t seen or heard one in a couple of years.

However, it turns out that I was wrong, I did get a new to me species to add to the My Photo Life list project, a Tennessee warbler.

Tennessee warbler

Tennessee warbler

 

Tennessee warbler

Tennessee warbler

I knew that I had seen this species before, I wasn’t mistaken on that, but it was one of the birds that Brian Johnson was banding at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, and I thought that it would be cheating to photograph it while he held it. Now I have photos of one in the wild!

Along with the warblers, there were plenty of crane flies, here’s a photo of one of the many palm warblers deciding which crane fly to eat for dessert.

Palm warbler and crane flies

Palm warbler and crane flies

And, here’s a better photo of a palm warbler.

Palm warbler

Palm warbler

As you may be able to tell, the weather had become quite changeable, it would sprinkle a few rain drops, then the sun would come out again until the next small rain cloud would pass overhead. It made it tricky to get good photos of anything, from these leaves beginning to open…

Alder? leaves opening

Alder? leaves opening

…to this tree branch which I mistook for an owl for a second.

A case of mistaken identity

A case of mistaken identity

I shot a few more birds there at the campground…

White-breasted nuthatch

White-breasted nuthatch

 

Male yellow warbler

Male yellow warbler

 

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

…I suppose you could call this a seascape, even though it’s a shot looking across Thunder Bay on Lake Huron towards the LaFarge cement plant near Alpena…

Looking across Thunder Bay

Looking across Thunder Bay

…I also found these flowers which I meant to look for later but forgot to…

Unidentified flowering object

Unidentified flowering object

…along with this chipmunk.

Eastern chipmunk

Eastern chipmunk

I did two passes through the campground, by then, it was the middle of the afternoon, and most of the birds were off taking their siestas for the day. I decided to drive into Alpena and stop at the tourist information location to pick up a brochure about the Sunrise Coast Birding Trail. That’s an idea put together by several of the county tourism groups in the area, they have played on how popular bird watching has become, and put up signs and created a brochure with maps to tell people how to get to many of the best bird watching spots there are along the northern coast of Lake Huron.

I had done a little bit of research before leaving home, and knew that one of the spots was Partridge Point, which was on my way to Alpena. So, I stopped there even though it was the wrong time of day, or so I thought, to scout it before returning one morning or evening. I heard rails, sora, and American bittern calling, but this was the surprising thing that I found.

Indian paintbrush

Indian paintbrush

Actually, acres of Indian paintbrush blooming was one of two surprising things that I found, for feeding on the nectar of the flowers was this guy!

Male ruby throated hummingbird

Male ruby throated hummingbird

 

Male ruby throated hummingbird

Male ruby throated hummingbird

There must not be much nectar in any one flower, because the hummer was moving very quickly from flower to flower, so those were the best photos that I could manage. When the little guy landed to rest, I shot a few more photos of him.

Male ruby throated hummingbird

Male ruby throated hummingbird

 

Male ruby throated hummingbird

Male ruby throated hummingbird

I wanted him to display his bright red throat for a photo, but he gave me the stink eye instead.

Male ruby throated hummingbird

Male ruby throated hummingbird

So did this grackle.

Common grackle

Common grackle

I found a great egret…

Great egret

Great egret

…but it didn’t stick around for very long.

Great egret in flight

Great egret in flight

We’ve had a lot of rain this year so far, so much of Partridge point was too wet to walk in just boots, and I also wanted to make it to the tourism information center before they closed for the day, so I left the birds to go pick up my brochure.

Since I was almost across the street from the Alpena Nature Sanctuary after picking up the brochures that interested me, so that was my next stop, where I found a couple of female red-winged blackbirds willing to pose for me.

Female red-winged blackbird

Female red-winged blackbird

 

Female red-winged blackbird

Female red-winged blackbird

One of the male red-winged blackbirds was too busy beating up a great blue heron to pose for me.

Male red-winged blackbird attacking a great blue heron

Male red-winged blackbird attacking a great blue heron

 

Male red-winged blackbird attacking a great blue heron

Male red-winged blackbird attacking a great blue heron

I missed the shot of the blackbird smacking the heron on the top of the heron’s head, as I wasn’t sure how well you’d be able to see the birds as far back in the reeds as they were.

Then, it was time to return to the campground for one more trip through it from end to end to see what I could find, but it seemed like something was always watching me.

Red squirrel hiding

Red squirrel hiding

 

Grey squirrel hiding

Grey squirrel hiding

I found a flock of these guys to shoot.

White-crowned sparrow

White-crowned sparrow

 

White-crowned sparrow

White-crowned sparrow

I don’t know why, but I never thought of a muskrat living in one of the Great Lakes before.

Muskrat

Muskrat

Off in the distance, there were three great egrets fishing, I managed two in the frame at one time.

Great egrets

Great egrets

A gust of wind ruined this shot, blowing a branch in front of the bird at the wrong time.

Male Common yellowthroat

Male Common yellowthroat

And finally, I though that the patterns in these cedar trees was kind of interesting.

Backlit cedar fronds

Backlit cedar fronds

So, that was the end of the first day. I didn’t stay up to watch the sunset that evening, I was too tired. Also, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky by that time, and it was getting chilly. The forecast was for frost overnight, so I wanted to crawl into my sleeping bag before it got too cold outside.

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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30 responses

  1. The quality of your wonderful photographs took my breath away, you must be really proud of what you did, I loved browsing through your post.

    May 23, 2016 at 1:57 pm

    • Thank you very much Susan! If you thought that these photos were good, wait until you see the ones that I shot when the weather was better.

      May 23, 2016 at 3:39 pm

  2. I really enjoyed your post Jerry. I fully understand the bliss of walking and hiking after a health problem, we no longer take mobility for granted. And your adventures here are so full! Muskrat and porcupine, sparrows and herons, mergansers and nuthatch, pseudo owl, red-winged blackbird attacking the great blue. And what a wonderful variety of warblers you enjoyed, and you skillfully snapped such awesome photos in spite of their speedy ways. We have so few warblers in Calif., that what you saw here, though perhaps low numbers for Mich., is considered plentiful where I live. Thanks so much.

    May 23, 2016 at 2:04 pm

    • Thank you very much Jet! It wasn’t so much the health issues that had me wanting this vacation so badly, it was having gone over a year and a half without one. It was just a typical day in northern Michigan during the spring, except for the weasel, she was special. You may not have many warblers out west, but there are plenty of other colorful birds there.

      May 23, 2016 at 3:54 pm

  3. Jerry, your pics, particularly the first two, remind me why I love northern Michigan so much. I think everything else is playing second fiddle to the weasel on this post!

    May 23, 2016 at 2:42 pm

    • Thank you very much Bob! I shoot good photos every day except the day that I left, still, the only ones that stand out are the weasel.

      May 23, 2016 at 3:40 pm

  4. Just an amazing post. Beautiful photos of fantastic coloured birds, adorable looking mammals and pretty plants and trees- looks like you had a happy holiday taking all these shots- thank you for sharing.

    May 23, 2016 at 2:46 pm

    • Thank you very much! Those were mostly from the first day, before I hit my stride in shooting small birds and landscapes again.

      May 23, 2016 at 3:41 pm

  5. Your admirable post makes for a very enjoyable read, with excellent photos to illustrate your points. I think you are way more dedicated than I am in your solo pursuits. You set a high bar that I will try to reach, but maybe will never achieve.

    May 23, 2016 at 3:21 pm

    • Thank you very much! I prefer to go solo because I see more wildlife that way, although I usually meet plenty of people during a week when I’m up there. As far as setting the bar, one thing that has been driven home to me lately is that we all set our own bar, and that’s perfectly okay.

      May 23, 2016 at 3:44 pm

  6. Welcome back.

    Very beautiful photos.

    I enjoyed a lot your photos of Male yellow-bellied sapsucker, Pine warbler (standing on a pine branch and having a very beautiful blue background), Male ruby throated hummingbird standing on a branch and of Female red-winged blackbird.

    I am not an expert and I don’t live in your area, but I think thoe are not crane flies but mosquito males (they have plumose antennae). What do you think?

    May 23, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    • Thank you very much Cornell! The flies weren’t mosquitoes, they were too large, as you’ll see later. There are huge hatches of crane flies this time of year up there, if there were an equal number of female mosquitoes to go with the males, if that’s what they had been, no one would be able to stand being outdoors this time of year.

      May 23, 2016 at 3:57 pm

      • Now I understand better. Thank you.

        May 24, 2016 at 1:38 am

  7. those* Sorry for the misspelled word.

    May 23, 2016 at 3:51 pm

  8. Even if you didn’t see the new birds you wanted at least you got to be out in the woods for a week. You sure did see a lot of birds though!
    And the weasel. Such a rarely seen animal. It’s cute in that photo but I’d bet those teeth could do some real damage.
    I don’t know if those are new alder leaves and I don’t recognize the yellow flowers either. It’s nice to see the Indian paintbrush. That’s rarely seen here.
    I like the hiding red squirrel!
    I’m glad you saw some sunshine and got a little rest. Welcome back.

    May 23, 2016 at 5:26 pm

    • Thank you very much Allen! It was a great week to say the least. You’d have loved seeing many of the things that I photographed but wasn’t able to identify because I was so busy with too many things to try and shoot all at the same time. You’re right, the weasels may be cute, but I wouldn’t want to tangle with one. The rest that I got was mental rest, I pushed myself physically each and every day.

      May 23, 2016 at 11:55 pm

  9. As with all the others loved the post and photos. Thanks for sharing.

    May 23, 2016 at 5:42 pm

    • Thank you very much!

      May 23, 2016 at 11:36 pm

  10. This sounds like a wonderful vacation, even with a couple of cold nights and

    May 23, 2016 at 6:01 pm

  11. Oops.. send button hit by mistake. The end of that sentence was “and bugs”. A great collection of photos, and really loved the weasel and black squirrel. I haven’t seen an Indian paintbrush since my days back east. Welcome home!

    May 23, 2016 at 6:03 pm

    • Thank you very much Lavinia! It was a good start to a great week with a few surprises thrown in at times.

      May 23, 2016 at 11:37 pm

  12. I am pleased you enjoyed your vacation. The photos of this first day are fantastic. I do like the weasel – I am very fond of our own weasels here in Britain too – and I liked the male yellow warbler too. I enjoyed your account of the encounter between the red-winged blackbird and the heron!

    May 23, 2016 at 6:56 pm

    • Thank you very much Clare! I shot over 2,000 photos that I have to sort through, edit, and add keywords to, so I’m afraid that my writing was and will be curtailed as I work on the posts from last week.

      May 23, 2016 at 11:39 pm

      • What a lot to do! I’m sure you’ll find some wonderful shots.

        May 25, 2016 at 3:46 pm

  13. A very promising first day. If you have better pictures to come, they must be very good indeed.

    May 23, 2016 at 6:57 pm

    • Thank you very much Tom! I’ll let you be the judge as to whether or not the later photos are up to snuff.

      May 23, 2016 at 11:39 pm

      • I will not be surprised if you have managed the tricky feat.

        May 24, 2016 at 5:05 pm

  14. Welcome back! The porcupine photo made me laugh out loud – she looked like she had been awakened by a salesman ringing her doorbell early in the morning. Glad that you took the photo of the warbler with the crane flies, too, although I hate to think that you had to put up with that level of bugginess

    How was your campground? There are probably several in the State Forest – which one were you in? Would you go back? Wish you would have had better weather – camping in iffy weather can grind you down after awhile.

    Glad your legs and feet cooperated so that you could do all the walking around you need to do. It’s amazing how long it takes to get into good condition for these activities, and how quickly it unravels.

    Eager to see all the rest of your week’s labors.

    May 24, 2016 at 7:40 am

    • Thank you very much Judy!

      The crane flies were a pain, there were clouds of them near the beach if the wind was light, not so bad when the wind kicked up. They don’t bite, but I had to be careful not to inhale or swallow any of them.

      I stayed in Ossineke State Forest Campground, one of the few near Alpena. It’s ten miles south of Alpena, just off from US 23. It’s great before it gets warm enough for skeeters, I wouldn’t camp there in the summer, too much standing water. This was the third time I’ve stayed there, always in May, and yes, I’ll go back, too many birds not to, and it’s right on Lake Huron. It would be okay in the fall after the frost kills the bugs also.

      I was surprised how well my legs held up to the five mile walk that I did later in the week. I took it slow on the way out, shooting lots of photos. But, I did the second half pretty much straight through with just short breaks more to be on the safe side than because I needed them. Still, it will take a while to be back to 100% again.

      May 24, 2016 at 1:03 pm

    • P.S. The ticks were really bad too

      May 24, 2016 at 1:11 pm